Chasing Rarities

I remember the scene of my favorite bird-chasing experience well. The Gregory Canyon trail in Boulder, bordered by Gambel’s oak and mixed conifer forest, would play host to a male Scarlet Tanager the summer of 2007. The Scarlet Tanager is an eastern species, but there are times when a vagrant will penetrate into the west. This reminds me of a phrase I have heard often from birders: birds don’t read the range maps in field guides. In saying this, I call to mind the Streak-backed Oriole in Loveland, CO, or the Lawrence’s Goldfinch in Mesa County, CO.

Cherry red with coal wings, the Scarlet Tanager is the only Piranga species to have a crook, a “tooth”, in its upper mandible. This particular bird spent its evening flirting with a female Western Tanager. Other birders joke that females of his own species wouldn’t take him, so he came out west looking for a cowgirl. On a more serious note, we ponder if such a pairing would actually be successful. What would the young look like? Furthermore, what would they sound like?

Scarlet Tanager, colored pencil 

Such chases are more than a tick on a state list. They represent moments that belong to science—the mystery of bird movement, of beasts with wings. What are some of your favorite bird-chasing experiences? If your target bird proved an exceptional vagrant, take a moment to discuss the forces causing a bird to deviate from its “normal” range. Any thoughts on where the February 2008 White-crested Elaenia discovered in South Texas came from?


In accordance with the bylaws of the American Birding Association, the Board of Directors has set the date for the next Annual Meeting of the Members of the Association for Saturday, September 22, 2018. Time and place are 4:00 PM, Saturday, September 22, 2018, at the American Birding Expo, to be held at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center, 100 Station Ave, Oaks, PA 19456 

The official Notice of the Meeting and the Proxy will be distributed to members on or after July 24, 2018, but no later than September 12, 2018

Please click here for location, electronic proxy ballot and other details >>